Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards: Stories

We hope you enjoy reading the stories about how people throughout the state of Wisconsin are using the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards. We need more stories representing child care, preschool, Head Start, Birth to 3 Early Intervention, 3 though 5 Special Education, 4 and 5-year-old Kindergarten, Community Support Organizations, Higher Education, Policymakers and stories from families.

We would like to add your story to this page. Please email your story to Sherry Kimball: [email protected]

1. WMELS & Common Core State Standards

2. Collaborative 4K Programs

3. Child Development Centers & ChildCare

4. Curriculum and Training Development

5. Courses for credit - Professional Development

Milwaukee Public Schools

Ann Terrell, Curriculum and Instruction - Milwaukee Public Schools
5225 West Vliet Street-Room 228, Milwaukee, WI 53208, 414-475-8528, [email protected]

Milwaukee Public Schools is looking at the standards (WMELS and CCSS) as the foundation of teaching and learning.

Since the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) begin at kindergarten, MPS has implemented the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS) to ensure proper alignment from K4 through grade 12. In addition, the district’s licensed child care center program and Head Start program embrace the standards.

The WMELS have been aligned with the following district initiatives: MPS Comprehensive Literacy Plan (CLP), Houghton Mifflin reading pacing guides, WMELS Professional Development Cohort, and standards based report cards.

MPS Comprehensive Literacy Plan (CLP)

  1. As a key component of literacy reform in MPS, the CLP has
    been designed to guide the development of consistent quality PreK – Grade 12 literacy instruction, assessment and professional development across the district.
  2. Identifies what is recommended in daily practice for reading
    and writing instruction at each grade level.
  3. PreK standards in the CLP come directly from the WMELS.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) Pacing Guide

  1. As the district moves toward utilizing a standards based report
    card, PreK lesson plans incorporate the WMELS.
  2. The HMH PreK and Kindergarten pacing guides list areas of
    focus, objectives, WMELS and Common Core Standards
    assessments, and differentiation to assist teachers with
    lesson planning and pacing.

Standards Based Report Cards

  1. PreK students (grades K3 and K4) are assessed based on the
  2. Students are evaluated based on expected developmentally
    appropriate progress.

WMELS Cohort

  1. Thirty early childhood teachers are involved in 30 hours of work
    with the WMELS as the focus.
  2. The focus is on the WMELS certified training and some specific MPS connections:
    • the CLP and the relationship to the WMELS new standards based report card;
    • lesson planning and the standards ( as well as specific alignment of the WMELS with the new HMH curriculum- they look at specific alignment as well as cross walks).
  3. Makes the connection to the Common Core State Standards
    (CCSS) so teachers are aware of what is next for the students
    differentiated instruction.Top of page


Merrill Public School
Head Start/Early Childhood/4K
Joan Krohn - Principal Pine River School for Young Learners/ Director 4K,
W4165 State Road 64 Merrill, WI 54452 (715) 536-2392 [email protected]

With the advent of state standards many years ago (prior to WMELS and CCSS), our program began the process of benchmarking and alignment. More recently our school district, along with the rest of the state, adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). We needed to update our curriculum maps in order to align with our school district, Head Start Framework, the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, and our Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment. We went to work to align all of those components in one document. We started the alignment process with Language Arts and have gone through the same process with Math. We chose to use the verbiage of GOLD as our benchmarks to put on our curriculum maps. This way we are assured that we are assessing what we are teaching. We determined a scope and sequence for the benchmarks and then plugged them into our month-by-month curriculum map.

The alignment process with the CCSS gives us Kindergarten targets versus 4th grade targets from previous state standards. It is through the alignment process that benchmarks are determined for children who will be entering kindergarten. Since we include WMELS and Teaching Strategies GOLD in our alignment, benchmarks are available for 3 year olds and children with disabilities leading up to targeted skills and concepts. We share our benchmarks monthly with all of our parents but we can also use the alignment to help parents understand the learning needs for their child. As parents and children understand these benchmarks they are better able to give us input into what projects or investigations would interest them to do this learning. Our curriculum maps and the interests of children and parents drive our instruction. Top of page

4K Wausau Public School District
Julie Burmesch, Principal A.C. Kiefer Educational Center Coordinator WSD Pre-Kindergarten Programs, 700 W/ Strowbridge St., Wausau, WI 54401 (715) 261-0265

How did you use the WMELS as a guide to developing 4K benchmarks? What processes did you use to develop your benchmarks?

First, we cross-referenced the Wausau School District Standards and Benchmarks with the WMELS. Then we met to look at all we had to teach and identified key concepts that we felt all pre-k students should have by the time they entered (as a guide to EC teachers) and when they left the pre-k program.

These grade level power standards or power indicators were compared with entrance standards that the 5K teachers developed. We took a look at the 5K teacher input and made further modifications. Now that we have our power standards, we are meeting to "unwrap" the standards. The unwrapping process involves, "pinpoint(ing) the important concepts and skills students need to know and be able to do and ... help(ing) students (to) develop their higher level thinking skills". The unwrapping process involves,

  1. identifying the key concepts and skills embedded in the wording of the standards;
  2. creating a graphic organizer to represent the unwrapped concepts and skills;
  3. determining the Big Ideas inherent in the unwrapped standards; and
  4. writing Essential Questions to guide and focus classroom instruction and assessment. (Ainsworth and Viegut, Common Formative Assessments; How to Connect Standards-Based Instruction and Assessment, p. 41, 2006)

While working on this process, teachers had the WMELS in hand along with our own standards and benchmarks. Top of page

How did you use the WMELS as a guide to develop or select curriculum/assessment? What processes did you use to develop or select your curriculum/assessment?

Attachments of examples that you would be willing to share with others. Currently, we are involved in this process. We are taking our Power Standards and looking at precursor skills to determine a scope and sequence of development. The WMELS have been very helpful in this regard. It provides us with a developmental sequence to reference. It also provides strategies to elicit the specific behaviors. Our next step will be to develop rubrics to measure progress with individual students. Top of page


4K Waukesha Public School District

Debbie Wells, School District of Waukesha, Supervisor of Early Learning Curriculum & Instruction Division, 262-970-1143, [email protected]

The School District of Waukesha enrolls more than 750 4K students in 33 classrooms across the community. We offer 4K with 11 community partners and also have 8 Model I (school building) classrooms. As the 4K program has had several years of existence, we have expanded our curricular palette, always with an eye first to the WMELS work. In 2011-12, we implemented Scaffolded Early Literacy strategies – a curriculum out of McREL that is play-based and centers on children being intentional in their play, writing play plans and exploring new vocabulary through taking on social roles. We have also been in the first year of implementing the Pyramid Social-Emotional Model, which aligns beautifully with WMELS. Finally, 4K and EC alike use Teaching Strategies GOLD developmental recording and assessment, which cross-walks objective-by-objective, to the WMELS continuum with its indicators.

Waukesha returns time and again to the WMELS as we seek to improve early learning programming. It is an anchor document and always the premise from which we evaluate new strategies and potential curriculum. We would like to share WMELS more with parents and plan to do so when we open our Early Learning Center in Fall, ’12. Top of page


4K Wisconsin Rapids Public School District
Terry Whitmore, Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools, 4K Director, 715-435-3340 or 715-569-4115, [email protected]

The Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools 4K Collaborative began a year before opening our doors to serve 4K students in the fall of 2004. As the Collaborative worked to roll out 4K services, the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards were used exclusively as a guide for creating play based, educational experiences for students. Working with our CESA coach to learn more about the standards, the Collaborative used the standards as our guide for the first two years.

After the WMELS training and viewing company-made curriculums, the Collaborative decided to work through the "process" of creating our own District curriculum using the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards. Because the design process included all stakeholders, it took 4K curriculum designers out to families, 5K teachers, early childhood teachers, and other early learning groups to collect feedback. This proved to be very rewarding for all stakeholders.

Since rolling out the standards based curriculum, the Collaborative has used the ECERS (Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, Revised Edition) and the ELLCO (Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation Toolkit, Research Edition) and focused in on specific areas of our curriculum to strengthen each year. During the 2008-09 school year, the Collaborative focused on creating a document (standards based) that defines the top 10 essentials of the curriculum....areas of development that are MOST important to Collaborative stakeholders and the early learning community. Based on these 10 essentials, user friendly assessments have been designed and professional growth experiences (for teachers through collaboration) have and will be centered around areas of student weakness. Top of page


4K Stevens Point Public School District
Tammy Tautges, [email protected]

I am in a 4K collaboration for my 2nd year. I am a 4K Model II English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher for the Stevens Point School District. Our program is combined with FDC Head Start. We use "Creative Curriculum" which aligns with the WMELS for lesson planning and assessment. We also use a published series for instruction that gives ideas to meet our Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, it's called, Houghton Mifflin

Pre-K "Where Bright Futures Begin" which includes materials for ten thematic units that are each 3 weeks long. There are tips for teachers with ELL's written in the teacher planning manuals. There are beautiful posters for discussion that help with social/emotional goals. There are great small group activities in this series. The literature component features big books and other read alouds with a nice balance of fiction and non-fiction. I would highly recommend this series for other 4K teachers who work with English Language Learners. Top of page


Kohls Child Development Center, Menomonee Falls

Kelly Scheuermann, Educational Coordinator
[email protected]
Phone: 262-703-1070

Our staff attended a Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards Training two years ago. Since that time we have made several changes to our program. We changed to a new lesson plan format for all age-groups, utilizing the example plans given to us at the training. Our twos’ and up classroom team uses the group form and our toddler team uses the individual forms. The teachers also have a better understanding of Developmentally Appropriate Practice as evidenced by the activities they plan for children.

Following the initial training we also had the teachers begin taking anecdotal notes on a regular basis. The staff has seen the benefit of having more detailed information about the child’s progress to use for planning purposes and also to share with families during conferences for children. The teachers use a variety of formats to gather information and document observations of children’s skills and behaviors. The teachers view children as individuals and put the “child at the center.”

Through using the WMELS in teacher planning processes, the teachers have become well-versed in the WMELS language and can be heard using it in conversations with their team and with parents. As a program we have always believed in building strong relationships with parents. Attending the WMELS Training assisted the teachers to know and understand the language of the standards and share the language with families. Top of page


Building Bridges for Children (BB4C), Chippewa Falls School District
Dana Sommerfeld, Coordinator, Building Bridges 4 Children, Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District, (715) 726-2414 x3004, [email protected]

It can be a challenge to create effective communication systems between the off-site 4k teachers and the school based kindergarten teachers at any time, but communication during the period of kindergarten transition is particularly critical. The development of a “BB4C Snapshot Form” has proven to be an efficient way to share information and foster communication. Winter checkpoint data from Teaching Strategies Gold is imported into the district student management system, populating a form that is aligned with the WMELS, and items that are reviewed as part of the kindergarten screening and placement process. The “Snapshot” becomes a conduit for preliminary information regarding developmental growth, standards attainment, and individual student needs to pass from program to program and teacher to teacher during the kindergarten transition process. The BB4C teachers also have the opportunity to add comments to the “Snapshot”, providing information to support the data and or other information that may be useful to district staff as registration days are planned and class lists are created. The “Snapshot” is not placed in the cumulative file as the intent of the form is to provide child development information for preliminary placement purposes only. The information is updated in May when the spring checkpoints have been completed. The updated “Snapshots” are available through the summer and early fall for teacher review along with the full Teaching Strategies Gold individual reports. The next few years will bring some exciting challenges as the district aligns WMELS, Common Core State Standards, and BB4C and kindergarten curriculums. There will also be the need to develop appropriate assessment practices to measure progress in the implementation of the new systems and resulting student outcomes. It is anticipated that the “Snapshot” will be modified to reflect the new alignments and assessments. Note: Contact Dana Sommerfeld for sample forms. Top of page


Early Childhood Special Education and 4K, Howards Grove Public School District
Amie Veldman, Howards Grove, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher [email protected] or [email protected]

I have been using the new WMELS to guide my IEP goal development this past year. I have found it very helpful in making functional, developmental goals-- ones that help school staff as well as parents. I especially love being able to share examples of what a particular benchmark looks like and having a specific reference to give parents. The 4K teacher I am co-teaching with has been looking it over and comparing the assessment tool they use with it. We just started working on developing a developmental screening tool this year and WMELS was a great resource to guide us. Top of page


Mellen Public School
Kris Kruzan ECSE/Pre-K Teacher 420 S. Main Street Mellen, WI 54546

I used the WMELS to create a skills checklist, similar to a report card. This checklist is completed at the end of each quarter. We are in a Pre-k through 12th grade school and using the WMELS keeps the program in alignment with the entire school. By using the standards parents, school board members, and other officials can see the importance of early childhood.

It also provides examples of learning through play, it is age appropriate, follows the state standards to correlate with kindergarten, and gives validity to play-based learning and an educational setting for early childhood. We have had difficulty in the past with Pre-K being considered free daycare and not an educational setting with numerous benefits to offer children.

With the DPI backing the standards they are taken more seriously than just verbal or written explanations from a single teacher. The standards are a great tool when writing IEP goals as well. I use the Creative Curriculum along with the standards because they seem to compliment each other so well.

Both offer areas of examples, standards, research, and ideas for a teacher to use without being a strict day to day curriculum. I enjoy the open ended ability of the WMELS to make individual lesson plans based on the area I teach in, the environment around us, nature, and the children’s interests.

Collaborating partners has already cross-referenced WMELS and the Creative Curriculum for us as a great reference tool. During parent/teacher conferences in August I’ve included the skills checklist on a power point for parents to view while we discuss what a play-based curriculum looks like.

I stress that each day their child should come home and say they played, but all of the skills listed are what comes out of playing. The WMELS are also included in a brochure sent home in May to new parents. Each elementary teacher has a brochure to keep a consistent resource for parents along with school personnel and programming goals.

During conferences, play days, open houses, and family events I have created a poster of the kids playing and list the WMELS skills being learned through play. This provides a great visual to see learning in action. I used the WMELS as part of my masters program, which is when I created the power point, brochure, and researched the development standards. The skills checklist was developed during summer staff development time. Top of page


Child Care, Meriter Children's Center
Pamela Bennett, Manager, Meriter Children's Center, (608) 417-6576 [email protected]

As a program, we adopted the WMELS as our Curriculum Standards as we revised our curriculum during our NAEYC Accreditation work. This was a team decision. After we had the WMELS training, staff felt it was an important next step for us to align our program with the state-wide standards, and the standards were already in alignment with our philosophy, so it was a no-brainer. Each classroom builds/interprets their classroom curriculum using the WMELS as domain/skill guides. We have not yet added a formal WMELS section into our curriculum plans posted in the classrooms....maybe in the future.

In rewriting our Curriculum Guide for Families & Staff, we wrote in a statement linking our program curriculum with the WMELS. We highlighted our new Curriculum Guide in our MCC Family Newsletter, featuring the WMELS guiding principles. Our Curriculum Guide is available on our website, along with a link to the WMELS document.

Recently, we have been hosting Family Forums to support families' understanding of our curriculum approach. We start off the forum with an activity that has been highly successful and fun for families - and has "turned around" many of the parents who have been advocating for "more academics". We begin with a collection of learning materials (science, math, language, sensory), and in small groups, ask families to "play" with the materials as their children might.

We then ask them to brainstorm all the skills their children might be practicing while playing with the material. Next we hand them an envelope with about 10 index cards listing some specific WMELS standards/benchmark skills (one on each card). We ask the small groups to look through the index cards and identify all the WMELS standards/skills that apply to their learning materials. Then all share back.....it's been an awesome experience.

I explain that doing this exercise "hands-on" has particular meaning....and that we could have tried this exercise with a worksheet, or other 2-D presentation, but that might have limited the depth of learning..... I end with "so what did we learn in this playful moment?"

I also found that the WMELS carries weight with many families we work with. They see that work we have been doing for years corresponds with the WMELS. We are using the WMELS as a guide in our children's center, it has the "State DPI" seal of approval, and it is the standards for the public school system. It reinforces that the choices the families have made for their child's education are sound and wise - something every parent appreciates feeling. There is credence in the WMELS as a community collective standard. Top of page


Waisman Kindness Curriculum

Laura Pinger, Senior Outreach Specialist - University of Wisconsin-Madison
Center for Investigating Healthy Minds At Waisman Center - http://centerhealthyminds.org/news/kindness-curriculum-boosts-school-success-in-preschoolers

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) is researching the effects of a mindfulness-based prosocial skills curriculum on attention and emotion regulation in 4K students. The Kindness Curriculum was written based on years of experience teaching pre-K-12 academics and adult mindfulness classes, meeting with experts in the field and reviewing current research in the field. As a member of the research team, and having been a former teacher within MMSD and well aware of the district’s desire to implement high standards and coordinated programming for its students, the next step was to see if the Kindness Curriculum was aligned with the district’s standards for their 4K program. Fortunately, the Center was made aware of the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS) through their affiliation with the Waisman Center and the Benchmarks for Development and Learning for the Madison 4-Year-Old-Kindergarten (which are based on an integrated review of the WMELS, Wisconsin Common Core Standards and MMSD District Kindergarten Standards) through the Director and Instructional Resource Teachers of the Early and Extended Learning Program in the MMSD.

Knowledge of these standards, particularly WMELS, allowed us to make the following determination. The Kindness Curriculum, which will be implemented within several 4K classrooms as part of the research, is in alignment with core standards related to: I Health and Physical Development, II Social and Emotional Development, III Language Development and Communication, IV Approaches to Learning, and V Cognition and General Knowledge. Areas of significant alignment include: behaviors to meet safety needs and a healthy lifestyle; motor development and sensory organization; emotional development, self-concept and social competence; listening and understanding, speaking and communicating, and early literacy; diversity in learning and exploration, discovery and problem solving.

How fortunate our children and we are in Wisconsin, to be endowed with useable and clear statewide standards that utilize a common language that support interdisciplinary dialogue while ensuring appropriateness and interrelatedness of the many curricula and activities that are available to our children. Top of page


Homeless Consultant and Liaisons
Linda Hurst, Preschool Consultant Education for Homeless Children and Youth program Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (262) 723-6560 or (608) 266-5184

Last month I handed out the new Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards booklet to homeless liaisons in several school districts. This week I met with one of the liaisons who attended that meeting and she reported that she had shared the Standards with kindergarten teachers in her district. She said they were very excited to see the new Standards. I am glad that we included examples of how to support young children from families experiencing homelessness in the Example Strategies for Adults.

In researching how to support children in the classroom whose families are in homeless situations, I have found that the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards can be especially helpful for teachers serving children from this particular segment of the early childhood population. Families in extreme poverty desperately need the support of developmentally appropriate practices that are outlined in the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards. Top of page


Shaken-Baby Training for Parents and Caregivers
Wendi Schreiter, MSE,CSW CESA 7 PST/ECSE (920) 841-2555, W6751 Sunnyvale Lane Greenville, WI 54942

We were looking for a consistent, up-to-date reference for parents and caregivers to use when teaching about triggers for crying or other behaviors. We needed them to know what to expect, what typical development looks like.

WMELS was perfect to refer to in our powerpoint. It can be accessed online, immediately or ordered bound, which is a plus. Helping parents or other caregivers to understand typical development is integral to them not getting angry or stressed over things that all little kids do. WMELS was the perfect fit. Top of page


Northern Door Children's Center
Cindy Trinkner-Peot, Executive Director Northern Door Children's Center, [email protected]

Our entire teaching staff participated in a WMELS full-training.

The WMELS framework benefited us as teachers in the following ways. Previous to the training, we as early childhood educators were always searching for and finding multiple sources for planning lessons and assessing the progress of our students. Many of these sources were very helpful, but always needed to be integrated into existing practice. The WMELS framework has given us a common framework into which we can organize many lessons, ideas, practices and philosophies.

We now have a way to smoothly transition from lessons to assessment as well as smooth transitions in preparing and assessing children as they move from developmental level to developmental level. Everything is so much smoother! We are streamlined and consistent in determining benchmarks, preparing lessons and assessing progress. We are also able to speak a common language with other EC professionals when discussing children and their progress. The WMELS put us all on the same page! And when we're all on the same page, we can finally begin to read the book! Top of page


WMELS used for Course Credit at UW-Platteville
Linda Hurst, Collaboration Coach for the Southeast Region, [email protected]

I teach the Child Care Administrator Credential series of courses for UW-Platteville. Currently I am co-teaching two of those courses. In fact in Course 2 of the series on Program Operations, we included discussion board questions on the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards.

The students have to access the Standards document and answer questions regarding the Introductory Section, the Guiding Principles and the Performance Standards. This is another way that the WMELS are being included in UW-P curriculum. Top of page


Professional Development Opportunities

CESA #10, Chippewa Falls
Amy Carriere, Early Childhood Program Support
715-720-2070 (fax)
[email protected]

As a trainer for Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards and many different professional development opportunities, I have started to embed the standards in each training. If we are to model what we expect our participants to do, use the standards as the framework for what we teach, we can take each professional development opportunity to practice embedding. After doing a Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards training I still had the question of what is the next step. The participants now know what the standards are, but how will they use them. This Fall I presented on the topic of early literacy. We used the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standard’s book to validate the important work we were doing in this area and to expand on additional ideas we could use to support early literacy. Since that session, I have used the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standard’s book in other sessions to speak of curriculum aligning with the standards, looking at what is developmentally expected of young students, and to expand ideas of how to embed literacy and social emotional experiences throughout the day. Whether I am presenting on literacy, social emotional foundations, or sensory motor, I feel it is important to come back to the standards in every presentation or professional development to validate the important work we do and make sure we are continually aligning with the state standards in early childhood.Top of page

Arlene Wright, WMELS Coach October, 2009

Updated 10/10/2017